Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Dazzled by What We See

Due to the timeliness of this material, this transcript may contain additional material not aired on the actual radio program.

Leslie Basham: Jesus told His disciples to expect wars and rumors of war. And, obviously, His words have come true. But the Bible doesn't only tell us to expect trouble, it also gives us perspective to help us handle dangerous times.

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, March 17.

If you're following along with our schedule, you'll notice that today's topic is not what we originally planned. Today we'll hear Nancy talk about a passage of Scripture that God has put on her heart during this time of conflict that our world is experiencing. Here's Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You know, as you read the newspaper headlines and listen to the news these days, it's easy to feel overwhelmed about all that's going on in our world.

I know that some people are really feeling a sense of apprehension and fear, and some are just discouraged and wondering, What in the world is going to happen? I think about some headlines that I've seen just recently.

This one "U.S. Soldiers Equipped For Worse Case Scenario," is not very encouraging. And another one. "C.I.A. Director Says Global Nuclear Arms Race Looms." And "Terrorism Warnings Sharpened." And this one in a local paper, "Many Fear War Could Unleash World's Fury."

And it's not just headlines about wars. I saw one recently that said, "Dreaded Leprosy on the Rise in the U.S." So, we have headlines about violent crime, and domestic abuse and extreme weather patterns and unusual storms.

We have to ask ourselves, "How are we as Christians supposed to understand what's happening in our world?" And even more importantly, "How are we supposed to respond to it?"

Does the Bible give us insight in times like these? Well, you know that it does. I've been asking the Lord recently what would be on His heart for me to share in a time like this with our Revive Our Hearts listeners.

And just this past week or so, as I was having my quiet time, I came across a passage in the New Testament that was really quickened to my own heart. And I want to take some time over the next several days to share with you some insights the Lord's been giving to me from this passage in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 13.

So, if you're in a place where you can get a Bible and maybe even a pen and some paper, feel free to do that. I want us to just, over these next days, unpack that passage and see what insights God gives us, from Mark, chapter 13 for times like these.

Now, this passage is often referred to as the "Olivet Discourse." It's a message that Jesus gave to a handful of disciples as He was on the Mount of Olives, just before He went to the cross.

And as you think back about the times in which the readers of Mark's Gospel lived, those believers in the first century were experiencing persecution for their faith. They were tempted to be discouraged and to give up their faith and so this passage was intended to provide for them encouragement to stay faithful in times like these.

Now this passage focuses on what Jesus says is going to happen in the last days. But throughout this passage we find principles that apply to Christians in all eras when they experience suffering or pressure or worldwide chaos.

Now let's give some context here for Mark, chapter 13. This Olivet Discourse is teaching of Jesus; it takes place probably on Wednesday evening of what we know as Passion Week, the week leading up to the cross and then the resurrection.

On the previous Sunday, just four days earlier, Jesus had gone into Jerusalem in what we call the Triumphal Entry. And you remember how those crowds just cheered and praised Him and rejoiced that this was the King of Israel coming into Jerusalem.

But, behind the scenes, in the chapters leading up to Mark 13, we see that there's an escalating tension between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day. In fact, the religious people are plotting to arrest Jesus. And Jesus has been talking to His disciples about all this, and He's been telling them about His coming death and the resurrection that was to follow.

And the disciples heard"¦when Jesus said He was going to die that made them very, very sad"¦but somehow they just weren't able to hear or to grasp the fact that after His death there would be a resurrection.

The disciples were still expecting Jesus to quickly usher in the millennial kingdom. That's what they thought the Messiah was going to do--that He was going to bring an end to war; He was going to bring an end to the Roman oppression and He was going to just bring in this great, glorious, kingdom of God.

And that is exactly what was going to happen--except that the disciples in that day were on a different timetable than God was. And there were some things that had to happen first that they were not aware of.

Now, in chapter 12, just before the passage we're coming to in Mark, chapter 13, in Mark, chapter 12, Jesus had been teaching in the temple. And then as we come to chapter 13, verse 1, the Scripture says, "As Jesus came out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, 'Look, teacher! What wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!'"

Now, if you're reading from the New International Version, it says, "What massive stones! [And] What magnificent buildings!" The disciples were talking about the temple. This was Herod's Temple in Jerusalem, which actually wasn't fully completed until about A.D. 64. So it was still under construction. But it was considered an architectural wonder of the ancient world.

This temple that Herod built was built with huge white stones that were brilliantly polished and then covered with gold so it sparkled in the sunshine. It was a magnificent building. And the disciples were impressed with this structure. They looked at the huge white stones and they said, "Lord, what massive stones! What magnificent buildings!" In other words, "Wow! Isn't this something!"

Now, it's interesting to read this verse in the context of the previous chapter, where all through chapter 12, we see evidences that God's values are very different than our values.

You see, God is not impressed with outward appearances of things as we are. He's more concerned about what's going on inside the temple than He is about what the temple looks like outwardly. He's more concerned about what's going on inside the hearts of the people in the temple than He is about the outward appearance.

And so if you go back through chapter 12, and I won't go into great detail here; but you see at least three instances in chapter 12 of Mark where Jesus points out that what's going on inside the hearts of people is more important than buildings and structures.

For example, in chapter 12, the last paragraph, Jesus recognizes that this poor widow lady who gave one little mite to the offering, that her contribution was actually greater than that of all the wealthy donors. Why? Not because it was worth more monetarily but because she was giving out of her heart.

And then you move up to the paragraph right before that in chapter 12 where Jesus gives us very strong warning against religious leaders who make a show of their spirituality.

And Jesus says, "Spiritual pretense will be judged." And then move up just one paragraph further. Still in chapter 12, verse 28, where Jesus says that the greatest commandment in all of God's Word is to love God with all our heart. And the second is to love your neighbors as yourselves. So, what Jesus is saying, "It's love that matters. That's the fulfillment of the law."

Now, put that in the context of the disciples coming out of the temple with Jesus and saying, "Wow! Look at this building! Isn't this impressive?" And you know we're really not so different than those first-century disciples.

Isn't it true that we tend to be dazzled by what we can see? We're so easily impressed with big churches and large crowds, big homes and buildings and impressive résumés and impressive feats and human ingenuities, successful ministries and how do we measure a successful ministry? Well, they're selling lots of books or they've got lots of radio stations that they broadcast on or they've got a big budget. And we're impressed with that.

We're impressed with high approval ratings and glowing reviews, with having a book that's a New York Times bestseller. Now, there is nothing wrong with big buildings or selling lots of books or having large ministries.

But Jesus is going to point out to the disciples, and He wants us to understand, that the things that matter most to men, the things you can see outwardly, are usually not the things that really matter to God because, you see, God's focus is on the heart, on what cannot be seen. His focus is on the eternal, versus that which is temporal.

And, you know, no matter how impressive our lives, our churches, our ministries, our families, are--if our hearts are not right and if our values are not eternal, then those things that we're impressed with just won't last.

If they're not pure, if what we're showing to others is just a façade, it's not going to last. And, in fact, as we come to verse 2, Jesus says to the disciples who've just been so impressed with this building, Jesus says in verse 2: "Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down."

Now, in our next session we'll pick up with this text and we'll see that Jesus is going to tell His disciples about future disasters--both short term ones, the soon to come destruction of the temple and also events that are still in the distant future-- that is the return of Christ.

He's going to tell His disciples, and He tells us what to expect. In fact, He says in this chapter, "I've told you everything beforehand, so you won't be surprised when these things happen. There are going to be disasters. There are going to be wars and rumors of wars, and earthquakes, and famines, and all kinds of things that would be really scary if you didn't know that God was in control."

But not only does He tell us what to expect, He tells us what we're supposed to do in light of what's going to happen. In fact, in Mark, chapter 13, there are 19 imperative commands.

I'd encourage you, perhaps, to take some time before tomorrow's program to actually read through Mark, chapter 13 and mark those commands--see if you can find all 19 of them.

We're going to see that, not only does Jesus want us to be prepared for what's going to happen in times like these, but also He's going to give us some very practical instruction about how to live in these kinds of days with confidence and without fear.

Leslie Basham: That's Nancy Leigh DeMoss reminding us that Scripture will help us make sense of the events we see unfolding around us. That's one of the reasons Nancy's put together a booklet called In Times Like These. It includes a list of Psalms that will bring you comfort and direction during perilous times. It also contains a message from National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice. And it provides ideas on how to effectively pray for our current world situation.

Ask for your copy of In Times Like These when you contact us at 1-800-569-5959.  It's our gift to you for a donation of any amount, and you can ask about how to get several copies to distribute to people in your church or neighborhood. You can also get a copy by visiting our Web site, www.ReviveOurHearts.com. Or write us a Revive Our Hearts. Now, here's Nancy to close our time in prayer.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Father, it's so easy to be impressed or disheartened by the things that we see going on around us. I pray that You would help us as believers to have Your value system, to see things through Your eyes, to have our hearts set on what is eternal rather than what is temporal and what is spiritual rather than what is just impressive to people.

So, Lord, would you examine our own hearts. Examine my heart. I don't want to just have an impressive outward façade. I don't want people to just think Revive Our Hearts is a successful ministry because it is on a lot of stations or because we are touching a lot of lives.

But, Lord, I want the kind of life that You will be pleased to bless. And I know that those who are listening want to have that kind of heart, that kind of walk with You, not just a family that looks put together; but a family that really is a godly family.

So, Lord, in times like these, thank You that you tell us what we can expect and You tell us how we're to live in light of these days. I pray that you'll give us wisdom as we study Your Word together. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a ministry partnership of Life Action Ministries.

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